Don’t Take Half of This Advice

Andy Sernovitz recently gave some writing advice. Now, normally I like what he has to say and I think he’s bursting with great insights. But this piece of advice could cause problems:

“Only type what you would say out loud.”

I recently conducted a writing workshop for a group of well-educated professionals. The very reason some of them needed the workshop was because they were typing what they would say out loud.

Andy’s point was that your writing should sound like a real human wrote it, and his advice to read your content aloud to another person is excellent. But please don’t type what you would say out loud. Otherwise, the world will be (more) populated with content that reads like this:

“So the PM gave that one project with the Detroit group to Steve and I and we’re really excited about some of the stuff they’re doing with it. It’s really cool how this project is gonna be used when it’s all done and they’re all up and running and everything, you know?”

Whatever you do, don’t write like you talk! Even the most educated of us shouldn’t do it. Everyone has habits and speech patterns that sound fine when they are spoken but look ignorant or just plain weird in writing.

At the same time, you should never type what you wouldn’t say aloud either. I think this is where Andy was going with his point. If it sounds wooden or unnatural when spoken, it shouldn’t be written either. So follow half of Andy’s advice: read your content aloud before you click the Submit button. But please, don’t type what you would say out loud.

Photo credit: Travis Hornung